Looking for growth opportunities in this dismal, downward market? Health care stocks can still offer double-digit gains, if you know where to look.

These stocks can soar on the strength of certain catalysts, such as mergers, regulatory decisions, product approvals and earnings surprises. 

If you're concerned about predictions this year of a bear market, we've found a health care beauty on the cusp of a likely merger that could help send the stock surging in 2016. It's among a group of exciting innovators that should surge this year, regardless of the market's wild gyrations.

Our stock to watch is also a Dividend Aristocrat, which means it offers growth and income, the best of both worlds. It's Abbott Laboratories(ABT) - Get Report , which announced Monday that it would buy medical-testing company Alere (ALR) in a deal valued at $5.8 billion. With a market cap of $3.2 billion, Alere designs and markets "point-of-care" medical tests that provide results in only minutes. Absorbing Alere would complement Abbott's own portfolio of medical-testing products.

Image placeholder title

ABT data by YCharts

The cost-containment pressures wrought by Obamacare are making fast and cheap medical testing more important to health care providers, as they seek to reduce overhead and process patients more efficiently. Alere provides tests for HIV, tuberculosis, dengue fever, malaria, strep and influenza. Alere generated annual sales of $2.5 billion in 2014.

Abbott Labs, based in Chicago, is a pharmaceutical and medical products manufacturer that consistently makes Standard & Poor's list of Dividend Aristocrats. With a market cap of $57.36 billion, Abbott serves customers in more than 150 countries and employs approximately 70,000 people. The annual yield on its dividends is 2.7%.

Abbott's stock is now poised for market-beating growth, as it taps into some of the health sector's biggest opportunities, especially "fast track" medical testing through Alere.

Abbott operates across four business segments: Branded Generics, Medical Devices, Diagnostics, and Nutrition. These businesses provide a diversified customer base and payer mix.

The company's drug portfolio includes Humira, for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn's disease, and psoriasis; Norvir, for HIV; Depakote, an anticonvulsant; and Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid hormone.

Abbott offers a wide range of medical devices and diagnostic tests used worldwide by doctor's offices, hospitals, laboratories, and blood banks to diagnose, monitor and treat diseases such as cancer, HIV, hepatitis, heart failure and metabolic disorders. The company also provides point-of-care cardiac assays for emergency rooms.

As one of the world's largest producers of prescription drugs, diagnostic tests and vision care products, Abbott should profit from the growth of these niches in 2016 and beyond. The company belongs to a group of technology-intensive innovators that should beat the expected bear market this year.

In late January, Abbott reported diluted earnings per share of $2.15 for all of 2015, a year-over-year increase of 8.6%. However, reduced guidance for 2016 and lower-than-expected EPS of 62 cents in the fourth quarter have weighed on the stock.

The culprit, though, was currency headwinds, which should prove ephemeral. The company's strengthening margins, strong product portfolio and likely merger should more then offset this challenge, and that's why this stock should be a great buy.

Abbott shares are now trading at about $38.45. The median 12-month price target of analysts who cover the stock is $45, which suggests the stock could gain 17% this year. 

And yet, the stock's trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio is only 13, compared with nearly 25 for its industry. Now's the time to buy this undervalued growth-and-income stock, before the merger goes through.

As we've just explained, Abbott is an appealing health care stock right now. We've also found a small-cap tech stock that has the potential to surge 100% or more in the coming months. This is a growth story with major momentum, so it's important to learn the full details as soon as possible. The stock is trading at under $8 a share, and its long-term prospects have never been better, making it a great value. I expect this rocket could take off soon, so be sure to click here now and learn more.

John Persinos is editorial manager and investment analyst at Investing Daily. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.